By Chris Cue
March 8, 2009
Back in December it was speculated here that Tim Wakefield may not be coming back to the Red Sox rotation this season. The link to that article is HERE. At the time, it was believed he might be considering retirement do to some sort of injury to his pitching shoulder. While it’s obvious that Wakefield will pitch for the Red Sox again this year, those concerns about his shoulder turn out to be well founded and explain a lot.
It was revealed in a Boston Globe article by Adam Kilgore yesterday that Wakefield has pitched the last 2 seasons with a small tear in the labrum of his right shoulder. Knuckleball pitchers like Wake are certainly a different breed, which may be why he has been able to continue the way he has. Still, it was explained that the problem with his shoulder is what has caused him to wear down late in the year.
Wakefield said: “It doesn’t really bother me until the innings count gets high, in the 160- to 180-inning range.” Using the lower end of that innings count (160), that means he feels he can be fine for a little more then 22 starts if he pitches an average of 7 innings per start. After that, he’ll begin to run into a fatigue problem. The same problem he’s had for the last 2 years. Clearly, the additions to the Red Sox starting rotation of Brad Penny and John Smoltz should give Terry Francona ample opportunities to rest Wakefield during the course of the season. Clay Buchholz is also in reserve if either Penny or Smoltz stumble, so it’s quite possible that Wakefield, while limited to a certain amount of innings, could still be very effective this season. It’s going to be up to the health of the other starting pitchers and Francona to insure that Wakefield is given the time off needed if the Red Sox hope to have him available for late September and the post-season.
It’s pretty obvious that this isn’t “new” news to the Red Sox front office. It explains why the Sox are currently so deep with starting pitching options. Right now, if you count Justin Masterson as a possible starter, the Red Sox have 8 potential starting pitchers. They are: Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield, Smoltz, Buchholz and Masterson with the possibility of a 9th starter in Michael Bowden if necessary. That kind of depth didn’t just happen. Theo Epstein has obviously made provisions for a starter needing rest or being injured. Now, perhaps we know at least one reason why the depth of the starting rotation was so important this off season.
By Chris Cue
February 23, 2009
Red Sox manager Terry Francona introduced a few new conditioning tools to the team yesterday. Many of the new approaches to training are a bit unorthodox, but the players appeared to embrace them without any questions or complaints. When asked why he decided to institute these new measures now, Francona responded with, “Well, we all heard about the suck-up session that Joe Girardi had with his players yesterday, so the Theo and I decided to do something a little different for our guys too.” Francona then went on to introduce a few of the new idea’s to the media during his afternoon press gathering.
“This was originally designed for Pitchers. We hope that by using this they will become much better in pinpointing their accuracy when it comes to locating their pitches. When I installed it in the club house, I was surprised to see the entire team line up to try it out.”
“They’re all getting their work in by using this.” Francona said. “I think right now, Beckett has the team record, but we’ll keep track of it and update you on the current standings.”
Another motivational piece introduced yesterday is a first of it’s kind when it comes to preparing ball players. When asked about the next item shown to the press, Tito said, “You know, ever since Coco’s incident last season, we’ve been trying to figure out a way to prepare players mentally when they are hit by a pitch. All the guys have to do is look at this and I think it gets the message across.”
Francona was asked if he had any special idea’s regarding how to approach Tampa this season. He responded by saying, “We kind of had to think out of the box to address that, so what we ended up doing was bringing in someone we felt was an expert at tackling situations like that.”
Good Luck Tito…..
By Chris Cue
February 4, 2009
Terry Francona sat down for a little question and answer session with MLB.com’s Ian Browne recently. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read it, you’ll find the complete interview HERE.
There are a few answers that Tito gave that I’d like to put my 2 cents in on. The first is his response to the Short Stop position heading into Spring Training.
Francona: Well, I would say right now it’s pretty wide open. I’ve never really been in that situation here. It’s kind of a unique situation. You’ve got a guy who you give a four-year deal to for a lot of money and he gets hurt. A guy comes in and plays really well for a while and then he kind of tails off — but again, he handled himself really well and I think his future is really bright. He was also injured, to boot. Saying that, I don’t know if I believe in competing in Spring Training. What we’ll do is we’ll sit down with both of them the first day, we’ll explain to them how we feel. And we’ll try to put the best team out on the field. I’m also a firm believer that things take care of themselves. We’re not going to look at their batting average every day and things like that. We’re just going to try to put our ballclub in the best position to win. However that ends up, it will be my responsibility.
My take: I think I would rather have heard him say something along the lines of “It’s Lowrie’s position to lose”, but knowing Tito, he gave the politically correct answer as usual. I’m fairly sure that the job is indeed Jed’s to lose, however Tito wouldn’t have said “It’s wide open” if Lugo didn’t have a shot at winning his spot back. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. Either way, you can expect Lugo to get a fair amount of playing time. $9 million sitting on the bench isn’t easy to trade away. He’ll have to see action if the club intends to explore trade opportunities for Julio’s services.
Tito also had this to say regarding Jason Varitek’s possible reduced role in 2009:
Francona: I’ve heard all the talk but I’ve never had anyone ask me before. I think it’s unfair to say that before the season starts. Knowing Tek, he works so hard. Just for me to come right out before the season starts and say, yeah, we’re going to do this or do that … you know what? That’s not the case. The season will take care of itself.
If Tek needs rest, that’s my responsibility, to know that he needs rest. But again, that’s like saying you’re going to pinch-hit for a guy in February. I really don’t want to. That’s like saying a guy is going to have a tough year before the year starts. We’re talking about the captain of our team, and he means a lot. I just have to be a believer in him so we’ll let it play itself out. If he needs rest, we’ll give it to him. And again, you have to realize, he will be 37 years old. I understand that. I don’t want to run him into the ground because I’ve probably done that before because we rely on him so much. We’ll try to use good judgment.
My take: Again, I think we’re seeing the politically correct answers from Tito regarding Varitek. Reading between the lines here is what I think is important. Tito wouldn’t have brought up his age, pinch hitting for him or the fact that they have used him too much in the past if it wasn’t a concern. What is clear is that Tito is willing to let the season and Jason’s play dictate what he will and won’t do. If Varitek is batting .280 into July, I’m pretty sure Tito isn’t going to be thinking about pinch hitting for him. The converse of that is if he’s batting .220 at that time. If that’s the case, then I think the Captain will need to sit down during the late innngs of close games.
The entire Q&A is worth reading and I would encourage you to do so. Tito also covers other topic’s and players such as: John Smoltz, David Ortiz and Mike Lowell’s health concerns, Jacoby Ellsbury’s need for consistency, Clay Buccholz and Michael Bowden’s possible 2009 contributions, Daisuke’s involvement in the WBC, the addition of Rocco Baldelli to the club and he discusses his own health situation as well.
Just as a side note: Truck Day is this Friday and Jon Lester is already in Ft. Myers!